While at the market the other day, I came upon a small display of sale items. They were the usual grocery store things; wooden spoons, dish towels, Christmas bows and wrapping paper left over from 2010, several DVDs--the types of things I normally don’t stop to look at. This time, however, tucked between cookbooks and rubber spatulas were several paperbacks at the ridiculously low price of $2.99. Now that made me stop. I quickly realized that I already had several of the books at home, but one book did catch my eye, Tess Gerritsen’s NEVER SAY DIE (1992).
I’m not sure if it was the rain pouring outside my window or the fact that it was New Year’s Eve and I had nothing to do but kick back and relax, but the instant I started to read the prologue (which I normally skip), I was hooked. Needless to say, I finished reading it the following day then spent the next few days letting the scenes roll around in my mind.
To the avid reader, those of you out there who set a goal to read 52 or more books a year and meet or exceed your goal, I commend you. Me, I have stacks and stacks of books that I’ve promised to read, tried to read but can’t get past the first few pages.
So what makes some books so damn hard to put down?
Plot points, those significant events within a plot that dig into the action and spin it around in another direction. Plot points can also be an object of significant importance that revolves around the plot—an event, an item, or even the discovery of a character or motive.
To set the mood, the book blurb reads:
“Twenty years after her father’s plane crashed in the jungles of South Asia, Willy Jane Maitland was finally tracking his last moves. She recognized the dangers, but her search for the truth about the fateful flight was the only thing that mattered.
Without knowing who to trust, Willy turns to ex-army officer turned mercenary Guy Barbard. He knows the jungle like the back of his hand, but Willy can’t be sure who he’s really working for.
As deadly assailants chase them, Willy and Guy realize they’re investigating secrets people will kill to protect.”
The prologue briefly described the events that took place in 1970 in Laos inside the North Vietnam border and easily moves the reader into the present time and the opening line in chapter 1.
“General Joe Kisstner did not sweat, a fact that utterly amazed Willy Jane Maitland, since she herself seemed to be sweating through her sensible cotton underwear, through her sleeveless chambray blouse, all the way through her wrinkled twill skirt.”Within the first 22 pages (approximately 5,000 words), Gerritsen introduces four plot points. By the end of the first chapter, the reader is clear about Willy’s motivation—she resented her father for signing up for another tour, it’s her dying mother’s wish to know what happened to her husband, and her questions will only lead her down a deadly path.
Plot point 1: Kistner orders his assistant to quietly send Willy's driver away. When Willy realizes her driver is gone, the assistant suggests Kistner’s driver can take her back to town, but he never arrives.
Plot point 2: Guy Barnard's job is to ID the remains of soldiers and send them home. Kistner calls him in for a meeting on the same morning Willy is do to arrive. Kistner lets him wait three hours and as soon as Willy leaves his office, he cancels his appointment with Guy which results in Guy meeting the stranded Willy. He offers her a ride into town. When he returns to his hotel room and starts studying his case files, he realizes the one MIA GI that he’s being paid to find is Willy’s father, Wild Bill Maitland. He then realizes that he needs her in order to find Maitland.
Plot point 3: Hours later a meeting takes place between two old acquaintances, Siang and a character referred to only as “the man” instructs Siang to take care of Willy Maitland.
Plot point 4: That evening, Willy is in the dining terrace, Guy tries to persuade her to have dinner or a drink with him. She declines. After several attempts, he’s ready to give up and walks away when he notices a man approaching her with a knife. The man stabs her in the arm, but Guy fights off the would be assassin before the attack can go any further.
After reading the first chapter it's clear the assassin will strike again and Willy and Guy are at the mercy of puppeteers who will stop at nothing to keep a wartime secret quiet.
NEVER SAY DIE never lost my interest. I truly enjoyed the read and now I’m off to read the first chapter of my manuscript and see how many more plot points I need to add!
About the author:
Marta Stephens writes mystery/suspense.
THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).
SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).Her books are available in paperback, Kendle, and e-book format online at Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, Smashword, and Powells. For more information about Stephens and her writing, visit www.martastephens-author.com